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One thing Lead guitarists get asked to do a lot is play other guitarists solos. But should you?

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - I'd be over the moon if anyone copied one of my solos! But should you be aiming for your own style and therefore copying is ultimately unproductive?

In the current climate of legal action over copyright infringement might it be plagiarism? Listen, Hendrix played all the best licks 50 years ago and we've been recycling them ever since! The first Lead guitarist to sue another for copyright will be a pariah!

There are two scenarios that spring to mind when copying could be useful…

  1. a cover band situation
  2. when you are learning
I've been imitated so well I've heard people copy my mistakes. Jimi Hendrix

Here are the pros and cons…

Cons: your fingers do not have the same muscle memory so it will be twice as hard to learn

Pros: you develop proven muscle memory that the original guitarist has honed, a good thing if you can stick with it

Cons: it will seem harder and possibly put you off

Pros: you should be able to play anything not just in your comfort zone

It depends who you copy

Europa Carlos Santana cover
check out this track!

When you are learning it can be very beneficial to learn solos note-for-note. I did. I slowed down my record player to copy every lick Eric Clapton did on the Beano Album. I remember some, even now. What I don’t consciously recall remains as muscle memory.

I say...

Clapton yes, Satriani no

Do not even attempt to play some solos that are so advanced - like Eddie Van Halen on ‘Beat it’.  If you are a beginner your confidence will be dashed, and your motivation dented.

Cover bands

If you are playing in a cover band then sometimes you must play the original solo part note-for-note otherwise it will stick out like a sore thumb – the ear is so used to the original iconic parts.

Just remember, if it ain’t awesome you'll sound like a cheap imitation.

Here's one solo I did do note-for-note on this Steely Dan collab with the wonderful Vocalatti

Vocalatti · Don't Take Me Alive (Steely Dan cover) Ft Benny Sutton and Moody Mo


I rarely play other people’s solos note-for-note. I just don't have the patience to sit there with a YouTube video at half speed - but that doesn't mean to say you shouldn't, as long as you remember these simple rules…

  1. don't overreach yourself
  2. put your own spin on it
  3. get it down pat before you play it live

I forget where I found this quote…

Having ability to play a note-for-note copy of the solo in Stairway to Heaven doesn’t make you a lead guitarist, any more than the ability to recite The Waste Land makes you a poet!

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